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Esperado

Music theory/ear training help

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It's not very difficult to discern a key of a song with accidentals provided you have ample ear training. Understanding the function of accidentals as well makes it easier.

lol

The ample/plentiful ear training sounds like it makes it difficult. :grin: Anyways... getting rather tangential here.

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A general rule to follow is to listen for the note that the song sort of has a "conclusion" of. The note that you can hum at the end that will make it sound like it's over.

In La Danse Macabre (the Shovel Knight song I linked) it uses i -> II in Db minor (it actually bounces between Db dorian and Db aeolian), so it's got accidentals, yes, but if you listen to the song, it's not hard to figure out that Db is the "main" focus.

getting rather tangential here.

The OP had specified that tips were allowed.

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The OP had specified that tips were allowed.

My point was that it kind of derailed into whether or not I know definitions of musical terms. I'm not the focus, music theory is. Also, like I said (twice), I've heard plenty of atonal music, namely Webern and Schoenberg, amongst others. Wouldn't you consider this atonal at times (besides the apparent Middle-Eastern influence, which of course is not atonal)? Especially at 1:06 - 1:19.

Edited by timaeus222

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Also, like I said (twice), I've heard plenty of atonal music, namely Webern and Schoenberg, amongst others.

That's why I'm confused as to why you think one accidental constitutes atonality.

Anyways, as to the topic, my point is that learning theory accelerates the development of your musical vocabulary. Yes, you can do things without acceleration, however I find this to be a waste of time having done it for 6 years and gotten pretty much nowhere with it. Just half a year of studying music had people I look up (like the big Z) to tell me my newer music had been unlike anything I made before and that the harmonic language was much more interesting.

Wouldn't you consider this atonal at times (besides the apparent Middle-Eastern influence, which of course is not atonal)? Especially at 1:06 - 1:19.

Descends chromatically every beat, then modulates up a whole tone and does it again. It's too short a passage to determine anything further from it. Jazz has a lot of chromaticism like this, does not render it atonal however dissonant it may be.

Edited by Neblix

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That's why I'm confused as to why you think one accidental constitutes atonality.

To clarify, I meant that accidentals are atonal with respect to the actual key, so in the confines of the ground they cover, they are out of the key that acts as their original context.

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To clarify, I meant that accidentals are atonal with respect to the actual key, so in the confines of the ground they cover, they are out of the key that acts as their original context.

Secondary dominants disagree. They are a feature of tonal music, yet rely on accidentals (they are a defined way to use accidentals to lead chords to each other).

It's not up for discussion. Ask anyone who studies music and they will tell you that this is not what atonality is. I appreciate that you have your own systematic way of thinking about it (really, I do, this is what I was saying before, that you do have your own "personal theory"), but when you use terms like "atonal" to me, you're miscommunicating. Learning legit music theory is also productive when talking to other musicians for this reason, so it eliminates people going "wait, what are you talking about? That's not the same thing as what I'm talking about."

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Secondary dominants disagree. They are a feature of tonal music, yet rely on accidentals (they are a defined way to use accidentals to lead chords to each other).

It's not up for discussion. Ask anyone who studies music and they will tell you that this is not what atonality is. I appreciate that you have your own systematic way of thinking about it (really, I do, this is what I was saying before, that you do have your own "personal theory"), but when you use terms like "atonal" to me, you're miscommunicating. Learning legit music theory is also productive when talking to other musicians for this reason, so it eliminates people going "wait, what are you talking about? That's not the same thing as what I'm talking about."

Basically you just said that music is more often rationally written in a tonally unconventional way than in an atonal way. Yeah, that's fine, but I don't often talk about that kind of detail-oriented debateworthy content. I think of atonality in the confines (i.e. timestamps) of a section of a song I'm examining. Yeah, you can't say a whole song is atonal from one section being as such, but atonal sections are entirely logical to identify even when the song is mostly tonal.

Edited by timaeus222

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Basically you just said that music is more often rationally written in a tonally unconventional way than in an atonal way. Yeah, that's fine, but I don't often talk about that kind of detail-oriented debateworthy content. I think of atonality in the confines (i.e. timestamps) of a section of a song I'm examining. Yeah, you can't say a whole song is atonal from one section, but atonal sections are entirely logical to identify.

I made no statements of the frequency at which music is tonal or atonal. I simply told you what atonal music is, because you incorrectly identified i -> II as "atonal". These things aren't opinionated. :?

If you want to understand the difference between tonal and atonal music, you need to study tonal music, then study stuff like Schoenberg, and actually technically identify what it is that sets them apart. You can't do it by saying "it sounds really dissonant/chromatic so it's atonal" Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor is tonal, yet some sections consist of nothing but tritones and it sounds super evil and dissonant. Why is it tonal? View the notes in context of D minor, it's all just chord tones of C# fully diminished 7, the second cookie cutter tonality defining chord of D minor (the first being A major).

This is not off-topic, it's speaking to the value of learning music theory.

Edited by Neblix

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I made no statements of the frequency at which music is tonal or atonal. I simply told you what atonal music is, because you incorrectly identified i -> II as "atonal". These things aren't opinionated. :?

If you want to understand the difference between tonal and atonal music, you need to study tonal music, then study stuff like Schoenberg, and actually technically identify what it is that sets them apart. You can't do it by saying "it sounds really dissonant/chromatic so it's atonal" Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor is tonal, yet some sections consist of nothing but tritones and it sounds super evil and dissonant. Why is it tonal? View the notes in context of D minor, it's all just chord tones of C# fully diminished 7, the second cookie cutter tonality defining chord of D minor (the first being A major).

No dude, I said your solo was atonal with respect to its key, i.e. within the confines of its section/timestamp, in isolation. I didn't say your remix was atonal as a whole. Also, even though you didn't actually say that, I got that implication from other things you said.

in that remix, you had a piano solo that went out of the main key

Again, not something I would really need to go into in omgsupersrs detail. It's not the most important thing in the world that I know how to identify atonal music, only that some music sounds tonally conventional, some not so conventional.

Edited by timaeus222

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No dude, I said your solo was atonal with respect to its key,

This doesn't *mean anything*. Because that's not what atonality is. Atonality refers to the lack of key. It doesn't refer to notes that contrast with the main scale.

Lack of key =/= Contrasting with the main scale

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This doesn't *mean anything*. Because that's not what atonality is. Atonality refers to the lack of key. It doesn't refer to notes that contrast with the main scale.

Lack of key =/= Contrasting with the main scale

The important part of my sentence was, "with respect to [the song's] key". Again, I'm not explicitly considering atonality defined for the stance of an entire piece of music, but in an isolated section of it, in comparison to the overall. Semantics... I have other things to do. >_>

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but in an isolated section of it, in comparison to the overall.

And I'm telling you that this is not actually a thing. There is no such thing as what you're trying to distinguish. You can't be "atonal in an isolated section" without ABANDONING the key. When you abandon a key, it's *very obvious*.

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Strangely enough I find these music theory discussions/battles between Neblix and timaeus222 quite entertaining, being a theory n00b. IOW: I don't know the correct labels for the stuff I do, I just do.

Might not be the best way, and depending on your personality even the worst way, but for me it works and I have fun finding out all this stuff without the fancy wordings attached to them, and I guess that's what matters. So yeah, just practice :)

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Definitely prioritize ear training over theory. It's always very important to keep in mind that music theory is descriptive in relation to music. Not prescriptive.

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music theory is descriptive in relation to music. Not prescriptive.

I keep saying this and then people keep trying to say "but WRITING BY INTUITION WORKS TOO" because it goes over their heads.

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Definitely prioritize ear training over theory. It's always very important to keep in mind that music theory is descriptive in relation to music. Not prescriptive.

Hate to join in on the theory shitstorm, but...

I disagree. The most useful application of ear training is essentially figuring out existing works, but not particularly useful in the actual creation of music. Esperado is a remixer/composer and if I recall correctly the OP was asking about how to go about bettering their sense of pitch so that it will be easier to transcribe tracks to re-arrange and re-compose?

Yeah, theory is an analytical tool, but what people often forget about that is that theory came about because composers discovered patterns - a method to the madness that sounded good and allowed them to more easily compose the kinds of music they wanted. Theory is the mechanics of music and how it works. There is enough evidence to suggest at this point that it's not all just "subjective" given the fact that many cultures discovered the same scales, harmony etc. across vast distances and applied it in much the same way.

Surely, the more that you understand about how music works, not only do you have a better understanding of music in general, but a better understanding of what you're doing and why it sounds the way it does, because music is as scientific and mathematical as it is artistic.

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Hate to join in on the theory shitstorm, but...

I disagree. The most useful application of ear training is essentially figuring out existing works, but not particularly useful in the actual creation of music. Esperado is a remixer/composer and if I recall correctly the OP was asking about how to go about bettering their sense of pitch so that it will be easier to transcribe tracks to re-arrange and re-compose?

Disagree entirely. Ear training attaches sound to theory. It will assist you in hearing various types of harmonies and motion in your head and writing it down with minimal hassle or error.

The most important application of ear training is gaining the ability to seamlessly translate in your head from conceptualized (written or spoken) theory, to what it actually sounds like, and vice versa. This is why they teach your Ear Training in music school; it's not just for purposes of transcription, it's to get you to eliminate the barrier between written music and actual sound. They become one in the same, because if they are not to you, learning new things becomes much more difficult. You may remember theoretically what they are, but forget what they sound like. You may remember what they sound like, but forget how to construct them on paper, or in DAW or on the instrument. The latter is basically writing by intuition. You don't really know how things work or how to derive them, but you know they sound cool, so you fiddle around until you get them the way you want.

Edited by Neblix

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So to summarize my interpretation of what you've been saying/thinking:

- Atonal music does not return to a particular tonic which marks the tonal center of a key. Atonality is defined in the context of the whole, not in fragments, isolation, or sections of a song because it's not enough context.

- Dissonant music is still tonal, though perhaps unconventional.

- Music theory only describes what you want to write or have written, and ideally shouldn't be something that gives you rules on how to write music.

- Ear training is a practical, common way to learn how to write music, and if you do it long enough you might do things you can't explain with theory, but it means you do 'know' theory enough to write music that can still be explained with theory by someone else that understands it better. (I'm assuming that if you know how to hum a bass line that just works, it still counts as 'knowing' theory?)

Seem to jive with you?

Edited by timaeus222

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HYeah, theory is an analytical tool, but what people often forget about that is that theory came about because composers discovered patterns - a method to the madness that sounded good and allowed them to more easily compose the kinds of music they wanted. Theory is the mechanics of music and how it works. There is enough evidence to suggest at this point that it's not all just "subjective" given the fact that many cultures discovered the same scales, harm

This is incorrect on certain points. Composers weren't music theorists, music theorists were separate people. Music education evolved and new composers learned theory by being taught by other composers who learned theory from school. But composers didn't really construct the music theory concepts we know today, they only learned them from teachers or made them up, letting someone else formalize them. Composition methods, on the other hand, like Counterpoint, were created by composers, yes.

Theory is not how music works, but rather how we observe it to function and the result of attempting to create a reconcilable system that accounts for all the things we perceive to be distinct. Developed theory is only really available for the 12-tone system, and it is only born out of observing what composers have done over the years.

For example, impressionist music turned music theory of the time on its head. It abandoned functional harmony, and thus we revised our conclusions and said "oh, you don't *have* to have functional harmony." Music Theory is the observation of all created music and the trends we see, but we should not ever be certain that it describes the deeper functions of how music ACTUALLY works, much like current models of the atom have been reliable so far but are still subject to change.

This is why Music Theory shouldn't be treated like a bible and should be more of a reference guide. It says "here, this is everything that has been done before, here are the macroscopic trends and relationships." and going on that, you can then go and try to create new music outside of that realm.

So to summarize my interpretation of what you've been saying/thinking:

- Atonal music does not return to a particular tonic which marks the tonal center of a key. Atonality is defined in the context of the whole, not in fragments, isolation, or sections of a song because it's not enough context.

- Dissonant music is still tonal, though perhaps unconventional.

- Music theory only describes what you want to write or have written, and ideally shouldn't be something that gives you rules on how to write music.

- Ear training is a practical, common way to learn how to write music, and if you do it long enough you might do things you can't explain with theory, but it means you do 'know' theory enough to write music that can still be explained with theory by someone else that understands it better. (I'm assuming that if you know how to hum a bass line that just works, it still counts as 'knowing' theory?)

Seem to jive with you?

-Atonal music can be in a distinct section of music, but it can not be any arbitrary collection of beats (like when you pick timestamps) where the notes happen to add up to a lot outside of the normally emphasized scale. Composers don't really blur the line. They're either writing atonal music or they're writing tonal music. Their tonal music can be very dissonant and tense, but if they resolve them to a tonic, it's tonal. If you say "well these three beats are atonal, then it's tonal for two beats, then it's atonal again for 5 beats", then you're not seeing the forest for the trees. The big picture is destroyed and now your analysis of what's going on is individually limited to each of those little collections, then the music makes no sense. *WHY* is it atonal for 3, tonal for 2, atonal for 5? You'll spend years trying to figure out what the composer intended with these strange transitions between alternate musical structures. Instead you can just say "oh, he's using the diminished scale on top of those dominant chords during some lengthy tension".

-Conventional is depending on who you talk to. Jazz music is super tonal, and super dissonant. But Jazz has pretty standard conventions if you learned the theory behind its harmonization techniques and such.

-Yes.

-It's not how to write music, it's how to *be a musician*. It makes your brain think in terms of music. I can tell you "minor 9th chord" and you will instinctively hear it, much like I tell you "fried chicken" and you instinctively taste it. Likewise, you hear a minor 9th chord and immediately attach that harmonic color to "minor 9th chord". Humming a bassline is not really ear training, but humming a bassline and being able to write down the notes without DAW assisted playback is certainly ear training, and is playing that "sound to theory" half (the other half being sight singing, which is "theory to sound", or reading written music and knowing/singing what it sounds like). I listen to songs and say "oh, they used a secondary dominant to the vi chord" or "oh, this uses a picardi third (using a major tonic chord in a minor key song)" or "this song is in Phrygian" etc. I'm not breaking it down on paper, I just remember what these theoretical things sound like. Whenever I *don't* recognize something in a song? That's when I sit down and figure it out. Then when I strip its context away and just have the numbers, that's when I can use it in my music from then on. THAT'S music theory. That's why I learned it, to do exactly that.

Theory is certainly a waste of time without ear training, because you'll have to keep using assisted playback and paper to constantly remind either what written things sound like or what sounds are written like.

Edited by Neblix

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Yeah, theory is an analytical tool, but what people often forget about that is that theory came about because composers discovered patterns - a method to the madness that sounded good and allowed them to more easily compose the kinds of music they wanted.

Sorry, but this is not correct. Theory came about because people analyzed music and put labels on the trends that had already been established.

Mozart didnt have any clue what sonata form was. He just did what he heard Haydn and other composers doing.

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Often what many people do is treat music theory concepts like rules, try to write to those rules, create shitty music, and then complain that music theory ruined their creativity. It would be tragic if it wasn't stupid.

To be fair, that is what plenty of the coursework forces them to do, and I'm fairly certain that there are plenty of theory instructors that dont understand that theory doesnt work that way.

I know more than just a few students that have shared stories of how their teacher would make them do voice leading exercises where breaking "rules" gets you points docked, and then they'd also get graded according to how good it sounds.

Most often I think the curriculum is to blame for the misconception. There is far too much focus on cut and dry statistical analysis instead of connecting overarching concepts, which is why it took me such a ridiculously long time to realize that ritornello and fugue are the same god damn thing.

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I know more than just a few students that have shared stories of how their teacher would make them do voice leading exercises where breaking "rules" gets you points docked, and then they'd also get graded according to how good it sounds.

Explain to me why you should receive full credit if you are incapable of voice leading properly? Yes, there is a time and place for voice leading, obviously you don't do it everywhere; however, you have to start with the basics before you can go off and do your own thing. You take these classes knowing in advance that you are being asked to demonstrate that you understand 17th-18th century concepts. I've never heard of anyone say that their professor told them that they needed to use these concepts in their own personal compositions in order for their music to be any good.

In other words, if I asked you to write me a two part counterpoint, and you just did some two-part whatever that sort of not really followed the rules of counterpoint, common sense dictates that I should knock points off your grade. That's not the same thing as saying that I think you should be using two-part counterpoint in your jazz fusion band. It's just saying that in order to evaluate that you understand what counterpoint is, you need to be able to do it.

If you are saying that schools shouldn't be starting education by studying Classical music, I disagree. If you know how to orchestrate and do standard functional harmony, learning everything else about music (like jazz theory, arranging for bands, etc.) become much simpler. Of course, I am incredibly biased, since I tend to see big picture things that my lecturers don't really discuss in class, so perhaps what works for me doesn't for everyone.

Edited by Neblix

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I'm not sure how you managed to extrapolate that from my post. There's an entire second clause to the sentence you quoted that you didnt acknowledge at all.

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